Time added

Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 29 Nov 2022

One obvious new feature at the World Cup is the enormous amount of stoppage time being added, reports Inas Mazhar

injury time

The current Qatar 2022 World Cup has seen many “injury time” minutes being added to the matches, but the minutes have dragged on so endlessly that they seem to have been going on for hours.

According to the new guidelines given to referees, some records have been broken in Qatar, in the first week of the competition, in four matches for the most time in football games.

England’s match against Iran had almost 27 minutes extra time in total; 13 minutes and 59 seconds added at the end of the first half and 13 minutes and five seconds at the end of the second.

Almost 14 minutes were added to the first half after Iran’s goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand suffered a serious head injury in the early exchanges. He required lengthy treatment on the field and was finally replaced after going to the ground for a second time and eventually being stretchered from the pitch. The second half was then extended by more than 13 minutes as Harry Maguire also sustained a blow to the head that forced him off. Against England, Iran’s Mehdi Taremi’s also scored the latest World Cup goal ever, as he netted from the penalty spot with 102 minutes on the clock.

The second half of Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia had 13 minutes and 53 seconds added. The US draw with Wales had 10 minutes and 32 seconds added at the end the second period, and 10 minutes and three seconds were added to the end of the match between the Netherlands and Senegal.

Some games have received up to 10 minutes additional time as what happened in Monday’s game between Ghana and South Korea, less by one minute the amount of time given in the second half.

Spectators at the stadiums in Qatar and TV viewers the world over seeing the fourth referee raising his electronic board to announce the additional times are being stunned with the abnormal number of minutes appearing. No longer is extra time a mere four or five minutes. Some have stretched to what seems an eternity.

The extra minutes added to the games after the traditional 90 minutes were given by the referees in compensation of loss of time usually because of injuries or player changes.

FIFA officials revealed that the excess time awarded had been the result of new guidance for referees. The elongated games are part of a move by FIFA, the sport’s governing body, to fight against perceived time wasting and to reclaim time lost to goal celebrations, video assistant referee (VAR) reviews, substitutions, penalties, yellow and red cards, and general time wasting by players.

Pierluigi Collina, the renowned Italian former referee and the current chairman of FIFA’s referees committee, explained before the start of the tournament that fans should expect games exceeding 100 minutes, with added time over “seven or eight minutes.”

“This is nothing new,” Collina said at a press conference. “In the previous edition in Russia 2018, it became quite normal for the fourth official to show the board with seven, eight, nine minutes on it.”

Collina explained that they had tried, in Russia, to be more accurate in compensating and reimbursing for time lost during games and that was why, he added, there were six, seven and even eight minutes added on after full time.

“Think about it: If you have three goals in a half, you’ll probably lose four or five minutes in total to celebrations and the restart,” Collina had said in a press conference in Russia 2018.

“We recommended our referees to be very accurate in calculating the time to be added at the end of each half to compensate for time lost due to a specific kind of incident. What we want to avoid is to have a match with 42, 43, 44, 45 minutes of active play. This is not acceptable.

“Whenever there will be an incident like an injury treatment, substitution slot, penalty kick, red card or celebration of a goal — I want to underline that because it is a moment of joy for one team, for the other maybe not — but it may last one or one and a half minutes.

“So,” Collina added, “imagine in a half there are two or three goals scored and it’s easy to lose five or six minutes and this team must be compensated at the end.”

The reaction of teams and fans to additional time awarded varied from approval to disapproval. Teams that are leading in a match tend to loathe additional time and would show their discontent as they desperately wait for the final whistle to confirm their victory and celebrate with their supporters.

On the other hand, the losing teams or those seeking a draw would be happy with the most minutes they can get, as it gives them more chances to score a winner or reach a draw. For them they would want the game to go on forever until they manage to score. But this is football. There is a winner, a loser and a tie game. Matches have to eventually end sometime.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 December, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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